Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WSI 2008: Defining Atrocity Down

As early as August 2005 Dahr Jamail was writing what he was getting from IVAW members. I've pointed out that BLACKFIVE and Chickenhawk Express took apart a Jamail story from last October in which all four of his sources at a military base with thousands of troops were IVAW, two of them no longer on active duty. Here's another: the month before the MacBeth video went viral, Jamail posted this dispatch where again his sources are IVAW, notably Jody Casey and Michael Blake. Here Jamail gives a clear view of his standard for what constitutes a war crime.

Jamail quotes Marine Captain James Kimber from 2004 speaking to the Marines killing an insurgent who had been planting an IED, to the effect:

"The current policy in Iraq is to SHOOT ON SIGHT ANYBODY emplacing IEDs...."

Jamil interprets that, without any cause to do so, as follows:

"What is remarkable is that Kimber's blanket statement suggests that all Iraqis killed during the occupation, including those at Haditha, are killed because they are found 'emplacing' IEDs."

That is a leap that Evel Knievel would have balked at! This site links to a video that shows Marines wounding an insurgent planting an IED. Then the Marines finish him off, and break out cheering. Jamail writes:

"As for what happens if at some point Kimber is brought to trial for his crimes, Marjorie Cohn, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, has this to say, 'Self-defense is a defense to a homicide prosecution only if the shooter had an honest and reasonable belief that he had to defend himself or others from imminent death or great bodily injury. The question is how imminent the danger would be from a planted IED.'"

Self defence as a criminal defence? It's a war! If during WWII, American soldiers spotted German or Japanese soldiers moving artillery or mortars into position to attack Americans, were they required to wait until those devices were set to fire and the danger was 'imminent' before engaging and killing the enemy? What nonsense is this?

Jamail's dispatch tries to make the point that since the IED planter was wounded during the first episode of firing, the Marines were required to take him prisoner and not to kill him. Here's the thing:

Wounded men, even badly wounded men, can pull a trigger or depress a device that sets of an IED as Marines approach to take him in custody. For those on the left who cannot fathom this principle, I refer them to John Kerry, winner of the Silver Star in Vietnam. In the Boston Globe reporters' (Michael Kranish, Brian Mulrooney and Nina Easton) biography "John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best", in which the Vietnam War elements were largely taken from Kerry's own notes written at the time, the story is recounted about Kerry jumping off his Swift Boat to pursue a fleeing Viet Cong already wounded by machine gun fire. Kerry chased the man behind a "hooth", and killed him. That happened in the action that got Kerry his Silver Star. None of the Swift Vets charged that Kerry's killing of a wounded man was a war crime. To a man, they all agreed that even a badly wounded man who was carrying a grenade launcher was still a threat. During one of his Senatorial runs in the nineties, a reporter accused Kerry of a war crime for that, and men who later started the Swift Vets came to Kerry's aid. They did not endorse him for the Senate, as years later they balked at Kerry becoming Commander-in-Chief, but they also would not let a fellow Vietnam Vet be accused, falsely, of a war crime for killing a wounded man who could still pose a danger.

Simply, if those Marines who dispatched a wounded insurgent rather than walk up to a wounded man who may have been holding a detonator for an IED with which to kill those Marines approaching to take him prisoner committed a war crime, then so did John Kerry.

The other thing that got Jamail's dander up, and that of others, is that when the insurgent was killed, the Marines cheered. As Captain Kimber pointed out, by that time 200 of their fellow Marines and soldiers had been killed by such IEDs.

War and combat are emotional. During our Civil War, on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, twelve to fifteen thousand Confederate troops charged across an open field toward an entrenched Federal Army in what has become known as the failed Pickett's Charge. As the Federals lined up behind a stone wall mowed the Confederates down in droves, they were shouting and cheering "Fredericksburg! Give them Fredericksburg!" Half a year before, at Marye's Heights in Fredericksburg, it was the Confederates who were firing from behind the stone wall, mowing down the Federals. That cheering was understandable, not a war crime. The next day, July 4th, 1863, the Federals marched through Gettysburg with cheering and celebrating the bloody victory with fife and drums playing.

The next year, after the horrific Battle of the Wilderness, when Federal Commander Grant pointed the Army of the Potomac "left", meaning that rather than return for rest and resupply as was usual after a great battle, the Army was pursuing Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and proceeding into greater carnage so as to finally end the thing, the soldiers cheered.

When the sailors on the U.S.S. Hornet were told that those large bombers on the carrier were headed for Tokyo in what became known as Doolittle's Raid, they cheered the coming bombing of the enemy.

During the Battle of Britain, when pilots among those whom Churchill called "so few" landed after downing five German bombers, their ground crews cheered.

The Washington Post has this on their website, after Al-Zarqawi was killed. The first is a question posted after viewing a video of a press briefing in Baghdad, followed by an answer from reporter Craig Whitlock:

"Washington, D.C.: While watching the press briefing, I was very much taken aback by the fact that the press openly cheered and applauded when al-Zarqawi's death was announced. Isn't it the press's job to report the news, not celebrate it?

Craig Whitlock: my understanding is that many of the people at the press briefing were Iraqi journalists."

I think Whitlock could have properly ended that reply with "were Iraqi" and left it at that.

To Dahr Jamail and his kind, U.S. Marines cheering the killing of an enemy who could have killed them or their brothers in arms was a horrid thing. Jamail does not always seem to see it that way, though. From a Dahr Jamail dispatch from June 2004:

"Over in Adhamiya we were dining on tasty kebabs on a sidewalk roughly 200 meters from the Adhamiya Palace, which is the US encampment in the heavily pro-resistance area of Baghdad. At 2pm three huge explosions sounded from inside the US base. Mortars, promptly followed by a huge black billowing plume of smoke from the target.

Everyone in the cafĂ© was watching the smoke and spontaneous celebrations erupted as men clapped, cheered and yelled. “Here they go! The Americans have been killed!”

We continued eating, not missing a beat in our conversation. Abu Talat and I have grown very accustomed to the explosions that rock Baghdad on a regular basis these days. He looked at me and said: “You know, Dahr, I used to read about how the Lebanese got used to the bombs in Beirut. I never thought that could happen to me, yet here I am.”

“I know, and now me too,” I said, and we laughed together at the insanity of what has become our everyday life while working in occupied Baghdad."

NOTE: for an interview of Captain Kimber at BLACKFIVE.

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